You have arrived. Just a moment ago you were Nearing Retirement. When did you get to this place in life so quickly? What do you need to do right now in preparation for that day?
This is often an exciting, yet bittersweet time of life.
Chances are good that your children have left the nest with lives and growing families of their own. If your parents are living, perhaps you are becoming caretakers them, just like their parents did before them. This includes taking care of your aging parent’s personal, health care and financial responsibilities. Your own children may also be having children of their own and you are happily drawn into that new family circle. You may be experiencing demands from both sides while trying to “enjoy” your retirement years.
If you are single and retiring, you have different but also important considerations, such as maintain your current lifestyle, who will assit you as you age in place and long-term care planning.
Unfortunately, many people believe that they can make decisions (whether personal, health-related or financial) for a family member or a spouse when they become unable to do so due to a serious injury or illness or incapacity of some kind. This is not always true! Without proper advance planning to appoint your chosen representative as your decision-maker, if you are unable to do so, he or she will not have legal authority to make even fundamental financial or health care decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will deny your spouse/partner or family member, access to your medical records and the ability to consult with your physician(s), financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return, just to name a few.
Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance through proper estate planning, then a court may need to select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse, the court process to accomplish this is long and expensive and can be a burden to your family.
Did you know that without having a plan in place, your assets may be distributed according to the state law, not your specific wishes? These laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this very impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers will likely not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your heirs or your spouse and assets. In fact, depending on how your assets are titled and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may inadvertently disinherit your important heirs.
Now, let’s consider something no one wants to think about.
What if one spouse dies and the other remarries? Or what is your primary heir does not survive you? Have you named alternate heirs to succeed them? This is a special risk for couples who, upon remarriage of the surviving spouse. About half of what you have contributed to the family holdings could pass to the new spouse. If the remarriage does not work out, it could result in disinheriting your own children and grandchildren. The best solution is to have a plan and premarital plan for future inheritance. It is best to go into a new relationship with both eyes open.
In short, the surviving spouse will need to have a legally enforceable premarital agreement inked before saying “I do” on his or her wedding day. In a recent University of California study, researchers found that 60% of widowers are involved in a new relationship within two years after losing their wives, while only 20% of widows have a new relationship. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, men are 10 times more likely to remarry after age 65. And the average time before they are remarried is just 2.5 years. When dad remarries a new wife some 20 years his junior that can trigger all kinds of drama in the family. But a plan can solve some of these issues.
When it comes to your children, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. For starters, wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered very quickly. In addition to good old-fashioned squandering, an inheritance can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies.
Fortunately, with proper (and very careful) estate planning, you can both honor your vows to your new spouse/partner and provide an inheritance that is protected for and even from your own children. Remember, two things you cannot choose in life are your own folks and the spouses of your children.
With full retirement comes a need to plan for the future years that, as we age in place, may require long term care planning in addition to estate planning. Have you noticed how expensive the continuum of care can be in the later years? From in-home assistance to assisted living to skilled nursing the expenses can quickly consume savings and investments created over a lifetime of hard work and thrift.
Before you retire, you may have purchased a long-term care insurance policy(s) while you were able to physically and mentally qualify. Some versions of coverage only pay when you need long-term care assistance, but others can now do double-duty and turn into life insurance if you do not need such assistance. That is a popular alternative to traditional long-term care insurance. We can advise you about these hybrid plans and other options for care coverage.
There is a 70% risk of needing long-term care once you reach age 65. Curiously, 70% of people think they will not be among those 70% needing care (i.e., denial) and 70% of people think Medicare will pay for it (i.e., ignorance)! You do not want to be in that 70% who are misinformed or misguided or both. New York, where our firm is located, has comprehensive long term care services funded by state and Medicaid dollars, which our staff is well trained to access when there is a need.
If you will need assistance with the activities of daily living (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring), you are eligible for service in New York but many have income or resource guidelines.
Other pressing issues during the retirement years center around managing and maintaining your income and savings. Our planning process involves reviewing your entire financial plan, including your fixed income sources, your retirement savings and your non-retirement assets. The first step in a full retirement plan is to review how your assets are titled and who your named beneficiaries are. Do these need review and updating? Not all assets are governed by your will; some pass by the beneficiary designation and this is an important task in good planning.
Another concern in estate planning, in the retirement years, is how you can help your heirs avoid probate. The media is full of cautions about the “horrors” of probate. This court driven process can be both expensive and slow. We can even assist you with coordinating the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy(s) and retirement plans with your estate plan in order to avoid unpleasant and unintended consequences.
We can help you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plan(s) to avoid unpleasant and unintended consequences. For example, all beneficiary designations for your retirement plan(s) need to be revisited, especially due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down on June 12, 2014, (See Clark, et ux v. Rameker).
The Clark case sent shock waves through the estate planning community after a unanimous court ruled that inherited IRAs are not “retirement funds” within the meaning of federal bankruptcy law. According, if your children or grandchildren are “direct” designated beneficiaries of your IRA, then the distributions may be subject to their divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies. Careful planning is required to protect these important assets, while at the same time preserving the ability to stretch distributions as long as possible for your beneficiaries.